Assuming they can make it through a very tough first half of the schedule (and I truly think they can), the Falcons will face off with the Indianapolis Colts during week nine of the 2011 season. Fortunately for the Falcons, this game falls right after their bye week, which should give the team a slight advantage as far as rest and gameplanning are concerned. Let's check out how Peyton Manning & Co. will fare against the Dirty Birds:
Record: 10-6, AFC South Champions
Last Meeting: Thanksgiving, 2007 (Falcons lost 31-13)
Notable Additions: LB Ernie Sims, DT Tommie Harris, DE Jamaal Anderson, QB Kerry Collins
Notable Losses: OT Charlie Johnson, LB Clint Session
The Colts, consistently one of the quieter teams in free agency, accomplished goal No. 1 by resigning Manning to a five-year contract extension worth over $90M. They brought in a few veteran defenders, including former Falcon Jamaal Anderson, but otherwise the Colts look very similar to last year's division-winning team.
For Indianapolis, the story has almost always been the same: a prolific air attack featuring multiple receivers, couple with a "bend but don't break" defense very much similar to the Falcons units of recent years. The Colts should prove to be a tough customer for Grimes and the Atlanta secondary.
The difference in this game, however, will be decided in the trenches. Matt Ryan will finally get to face off against Manning, the QB he is so often compared to, but with the Colts high profile offense it may be too much to put the weight of the team completely on his shoulders. The Falcons will need to get pressure on Manning courtesy of the front four. Abraham, Edwards, and Babineaux will have to be out in full force that night.
All in all, I expect this to be one of the better games on the schedule. Given the Falcons will have an extra week to prepare and get healthy, I fully expect Mike Smith to have a solid game plan in place for number 18. The Colts are always a good gauge for the strength of a team, and should the Falcons prove victorious they will be on their way to successful play down the stretch.